It will feel uncomfortable (and maybe that's ok).

It will feel uncomfortable (and maybe that's ok).

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Being a human is filled with emotional discomfort, yes? 

Being a human that makes things that they care about deeply is filled with an extra special dose of discomfort. 

Over the past five years, I've had a front row seat to the mashup of feelings (and resulting indecision) of dozens of makers and business owners— especially my own— and can say with total confidence that discomfort is what unites us. So, yay. 

We are uncomfortable because....

  • Creating is vulnerable, and most of us have unresolved emotional crap and inadequacies that come to the surface when we're vulnerable. 
  • It's so easy to over-identify with our work, and the work is, well, unpredictable. Sometimes it totally bombs. We are wired to avoid precarious situations!
  • Creative work makes us aware of the weirdness of capitalism, and the presence of privilege and power.
  • We just want to be seen and validated; we are tender humans.
  • Creating what we feel called to do means pioneering new things, and new things are lonely. (All the cool kids are doing things together.) 
  • Creating is full of contradictions and gray area (for instance, trying to make a living making art).
  • We're freaked out we'll be misperceived. Again: tender humans!

Basically: creating amplifies all of our neurosis.

Eventually, we get stuck.

We start to expend tons of energy by...

  • Over-consider every decision (because it feels very life and death).
  • Compare our work to everyone else's.
  • Feeling like we need to go back to school (or read another book, or listen to another podcast...)
  • Chasing external validation.
  • Saying 'yes' to everything, because choosing feels way too scary.
  • Farting around on the internet.

Dear friends, I have no solution.

I have written this blog post half a dozen times because I'm my most intense writing critic, and it's all is perfectly on-point with the topic. Applause, please.

There are plenty of Notable People who will tell you to PUSH THROUGH THE DISCOMFORT AND SHOW UP, but I would offer a slightly different approach:

Just notice it. Name it. (Really— write it down, or say it to yourself. I am feeling super uncomfortable right now. Here I am.) I'm continually amazed by the power of just observing something— ideally, with some compassion. Get curious about it. What can it teach you?

Get comfortable with it. We are trained to believe that feeling uncomfortable is a negative thing. But really, it’s just information. There’s a lot to be said for noticing it— the discomfort— but not necessarily, or at least immediately, changing course. Sometimes discomfort is my gut telling me that something isn’t sitting right— that a choice isn’t aligned with what I really want or what I value. More often, discomfort is just my brain telling me that something feels new, strange, and uncertain. Our brains are wired for habitual action. (And they are wired to keep us safe from prey...but usually, the stakes aren't quite as high.)

Adapt an experimental mindset. Give yourself room to fail— it's what scientists do every day, and it's how they learn. An experimental mindset gives us some distance from what we're making, and allows us to observe the results as data.

Make efforts towards healing your childhood gunk. Many of us have patterns from early in our lives that have led us to being less risk-averse, and more uncomfortable taking up space. We have old narratives about who we are, and when we get in vulnerable situations, we step into these narratives. Therapists are awesome at addressing this! And therapy is often covered by insurance these days. 

Get in your body. Breathe, stretch, walk, dance; our bodies override these left-brained impulses to save us from uncertainty. And, dear god, I lovingly insist that you get off the internet....

Phone a friend. Allow them to push you out of your own, currently toxic brain. Kindly.

Hit 'publish' on the damn post already, and notice that it feels way better to do something than it does to do something perfectly. Remember the onion

Suggested reading:

Steven Pressfield's The War of Art (all about discomfort!)

Brené Brown' The Gifts of Imperfection (and, everything she writes)

Elizabeth Gilbert's Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear

David Bayles' Art and Fear

Notice & Adjust: evolving as I go

Notice & Adjust: evolving as I go

Movement brings clarity, or: keep peeling the onion

Movement brings clarity, or: keep peeling the onion

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